Teen charged with murder in attack at troubled-youth ranch

The attack unfolded at a ranch in southern Utah.

The attack unfolded at a ranch in southern Utah.  (Fox 13)

An Arizona teenager was charged with aggravated murder Friday in the brutal slaying of a worker at a southern Utah ranch for troubled teens.


Clay Brewer, 17, attacked the man from behind with a weapon when he came to check on a group of teenagers sitting around a campfire on a frigid morning, police said.

The teen continued the Tuesday's assault after Jimmy Woolsey, 61, fell to the ground, according to Garfield County Sheriff James Perkins. Brewer also beat a second staffer who came to help and took her car before he was arrested on the way to the tiny town of Escalante, about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.


Prosecutors filed eight charges Friday that also include attempted aggravated murder and robbery in the attack. He was charged directly as an adult under Utah laws where serious cases bypass juvenile court.

The teen's grandfather Coleman Brewer said by phone that the family is heartbroken by what happened. He said the family sent him to the Turn-About Ranch because of drug problems.

"He's always been a really good kid, he just got mixed up in some drugs," said Coleman Brewer, of Snowflake, Arizona. He declined to say more, saying the attorneys told the family not to talk.

It was immediately known which attorney is representing the suspect.

Brewer attacked the staffers because he wanted to leave, not because of a grudge, police have said.

After the attack began, the other teens rushed inside to a cabin nearby where they sleep and told another staffer, Alicia Keller. She came running out and the teen attacked her as well. She struggled with the teen as he tried to force his way in. She was bleeding profusely after being struck in the head but held her ground, said Perkins said.

The teen tried to flee in Woolsey's truck, but couldn't get it started. He came back threatening to break a cabin window and Keller threw him her car keys.

The teen was arrested after deputies on their way to the ranch spotted him driving Keller's stolen car into nearby Escalante, about 3 miles from the ranch.

Woolsey died from blunt force injuries to the head. He is survived by his wife and a 10-year-old daughter, Perkins said, calling Woolsey a jovial, well-liked man.

The ranch was featured in a 2010 episode of Dr. Phil, which includes Turn-About Ranch on its list of recommended treatment centers.

State regulators say the ranch hasn't previously had any major violations with the state or violent incidents.

The working cattle ranch says on their website they don't take kids who have shown aggressive, psychotic or suicidal behavior, but do offer to help kids with anger issues.

Teens there spend their days in a highly supervised, closely structured program in which they do chores while also doing school work and meeting with counselors and juveniles usually stay for about 100 days. Pictures on the website show teens riding horses, herding cattle, chopping wood and milking cows.

Perkins said his agency has responded a few times over the years to reports of young people leaving the treatment center but said it's usually peaceful.

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